Beckett vs. Duchamp

The two were not evenly matched.  Duchamp was one of the best players in France, and no doubt swept Beckett off the board in most of their encounters.  But still they enjoyed each other’s company, and continued to play.  The two came together again in the summer of 1940, converging on the Atlantic coastal town of Arcachon, southwest of Bordeaux, as they fled the Nazi onslaught.  All summer they played lengthy chess games together in a seafront cafe.  While their conversations were not recorded, we can imagine that they discussed their mutual interest in chess’s dialectic between total freedom and complete constriction, between choice and futility…[Beckett] once remarked that the ideal chess game for him would end with the pieces back in their starting positions.

That is from David Shenk’s new The Immortal Game: A History of Chess.  If you are going to read only one book on chess, this is it.  I don’t read this stuff any more, but was persuaded to buy it by Stephen Dubner’s strong blurb.


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